The Federal Government on Monday insisted that the recent amendment to the sixth edition of the Nigerian Broadcasting Code by the National Broadcasting Commission, as part of ongoing reforms in the sector, was in the best interest of the country.
The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, stated this at the NBC’s 28th anniversary and sixth annual lecture in Abuja..
The amendment, which has attracted controversies, prohibited exclusivity of sporting rights and raised the fine for hate speech to N5m.
It caused a disagreement between the commission’s acting Director-General, Armstrong Idachaba; and the chairman of the commission’s board, Ikra Bilbis, who is supporting further review to accommodate concerns raised by stakeholders.
But Mohammed said government’s expectation was that the ongoing reforms, including the amendment of the code, would revolutionise the nation’s broadcasting industry.
He explained that the Federal Executive Council, led by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), supported the amendments after a review of the 2019 general elections.
He said Buhari decided to approve the recommendations in order to reposition the NBC.
The minister explained, “The approval necessitated some amendments in the Code and the Act (of NBC).
“The amendments are mostly in the areas of political broadcasting, local content, coverage of emergencies, advertising and anti-competitive behaviour.
“There are obviously lots of positive and desirable outcomes from the new Broadcasting Code; the provisions on exclusivity and monopoly.
“This antitrust provision will boost local content and local industry due to laws prohibiting exclusive use of rights by broadcasters whose intent is to create monopolies.”
Mohammed also said the implementation of the new code would encourage open access to premium content.
The minister said the provision was not new in Nigeria, saying broadcasting exclusivity was disallowed at a certain time in the history of the nation’s broadcasting.
He recalled Multichoice sub-licensing EPL matches to other local operators in Nigeria while HiTV engaged local operators on sub-licensing the EPL when they got the rights.
“Sublicensing and rights sharing create opportunities for local operators to also gain traction and revenue for their services,” he said.
The minister said the law prohibiting backlog of advertising debts would promote sustainability while the law on registration of web broadcasting would regulate negative foreign broadcasts that could affect the country negatively.